Landis Gardens at the Bull’s Head Inn

By Louise Polli

In the heart of Cobleskill sits the stately Bull’s Head Inn, believed to be the town’s oldest building. Erected in 1802, the inn had been closed for four years. Now it is being restored to its former glory by new owners Chris Guldner and Mary Sagendorf.

The couple has created a charming restaurant with vintage detail and historical accuracy. The building dates from the Federal period, a mere 50 years sandwiched between the Colonial and Victorian periods. Their renovations had to balance the restrictions of the building’s placement on the National Historic Register and current code requirements. Notable features include restored wide plank floors and wooden beams, ornate cast iron radiators, wallpaper replicated locally from the original, and a stunning bar built from repurposed pocket doors found on-site.

The inn’s exterior received no less attention to details and the structure’s history. To establish a landscape plan that would be true to the building’s origins, Mary and Chris turned to the Landis Arboretum. Susan and John Sagendorf, longtime Landis volunteers, met with the Board of Trustees to bring news of the newly remodeled inn and the owners’ interest in developing an appropriate garden. The project began to take shape, marking the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship between Landis and the Bull’s Head Inn. Visitors to the restaurant will enjoy the garden, while material displayed at the inn will promote the Arboretum. Mary noted, regarding the new landscaping, “The Arboretum is such an asset to the community. That’s what started the whole thing.”

Fred and Erin Breglia collaborated on the garden, which includes both herbaceous and woody plants. Research was essential to planning the design, as most period photographs were lost due to local flooding. Plants were chosen to fit the site directly in front of the inn’s entrance, now enhanced by a hand-crafted bluestone wall and a gas lantern accenting the inn’s sign. Formal hedging is the backbone of the design, as it would have been in 1802. Fred chose Green Gem® boxwood for its superior color retention, winter hardiness, and low height to showcase flowers behind it. The boxwood then left a blank canvas for Erin, who designed a three-season display of ten flowering plants with an array of color and fragrance to complement the evergreens and the Bull’s Head entrance. These include everything from Sweet William and columbine to delphinium and thrift. Chrysanthemums round out the palette and lay the garden to bed as the last autumn leaf peepers leave the Schoharie Valley.

Mary and Chris are delighted with the results, and plan to post a sign crediting the Arboretum for the beautiful garden, which Fred wanted to “keep classy and simple.” A small patio area may be added, giving diners the opportunity to take in the sights and scents of the garden close at hand. Be sure to stop for a visit. You may get some ideas for your own garden!

For more information, visit the Inn's website at

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Summer 2015

Volume 33 , Number 3

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